Siew-Yue’s name

Since Siew-Yue spoke both Cantonese and Mandarin, she used two forms of her name in Chinese: Gou Siu Yü and Gāo Xiăoyù. Both are written with the same three characters. They are shown here in the traditional way, reading from the top downwards.

Siew-Yue's name in Chinese charactersThe first character is Siew-Yue’s surname, pronounced Gou (like English “go”; high falling tone) in Cantonese and Gāo (high level tone) in Mandarin. It is a common Chinese surname, and means ‘tall’. Siew-Yue chose it as her married surname, to represent Killingley; her maiden name was Leong in Cantonese, Liang in Mandarin.

The second character is the first syllable of her given name, pronounced Siu (high rising tone) in Cantonese and Xiăo (low rising tone) in Mandarin. It means ‘little’, and is shared with her sister Siew Mun and her brother Siew Wie. It is common in Chinese families to give all the children of a generation the same first syllable. The implication of ‘little’ is that the parents are not claiming too much for their children, in accordance with the Chinese tradition of modesty.

The last character is the second syllable of her given name, pronounced Yü (low falling tone) in Cantonese and Yù (falling tone, with u pronounced like French u or German ü) in Mandarin. It means ‘imperial edict’, but in Siew-Yue’s name it is interpreted as meaning ‘reason’, because edicts are bound to be reasonable.

 

 

The spelling given here for Mandarin (Gāo Xiăoyù) is the standard romanization called Pinyin, established in China after the 1949 revolution and now used internationally. In the older Wade-Giles romanization, Siew-Yue’s name is Kao Hsiao Yü.

The spelling given for Cantonese (Gou Siu Yü) is the Yale romanization. The spelling Siew-Yue, like many spellings of Chinese personal names, is not based on a system, but gives an impression of the Cantonese pronunciation.

Advertisements